Doremi Laboratories DAWN II Digital Audio Workstation Nucleus (part 4)
The best sound file librarian system I have come across is on the SSL ScreenSound system. On that, you simply give your sound files sensible hierarchical names, such as SFX CAR DOOR SLAM and then you can see the alternative options simply by typing part of the name such as SFX CAR when you will be presented with a list of all the car noises in the library. The file handling system on DAWN II is the standard operating system that comes with the Macintosh computer. Is this entirely appropriate for recording and editing sound?
The Mac operation system uses a series of folders which can be given names of up to 31 characters including upper and lower case letters, numbers and spaces. (Compare this to IBM compatibles which are still limited to just eight capital letters or numbers with a three character extension - which the software often chooses for you - and no spaces). The topmost level of the hierarchy will be the name you give to the hard disk drive, or to the disk you place in a removable optical drive. Below that you can as many level of nested folders as you could possibly require - its up to you to organise them sensibly.
Folders are great, until you know that there is a file in there somewhere, but you dont know where. You could spend ages opening the folders until you find the right one. But if you know the name of the file you want then the Mac has a Find File routine which will search for any string of characters and prompt you where to look for the file. When you open the correct folder you will be presented with a list of file names including information on the size of the file and the last modification date and time. This is useful, but it would be better for audio purposes to be able to see the duration of the file in minutes and seconds and whether it is mono or stereo. All in all, I would say that the Macs file handling system is great if you are organised. Its not as good as it could be for looking after sound files, but using an everyday Mac rather than some kind proprietary interface is a hell of a lot cheaper. Just think of the money youre saving!
There is no doubt that the mouse is one of the greatest inventions of computing. I have no doubt that eventually it will become a curiosity in the Science Museum, but for now it is a wonderfully useful and versatile computer input device.
Although the mouse is great for lots of computer applications, one may be inclined to wonder whether it is ideal for manipulating audio information. The problem with the mouse is that it isnt all that easy to position and move it with a great deal of accuracy. Its amazing the difference a pen and tablet makes, since anyone who can write can control the computer screen with great precision over small movements. The big advantage the DAR SoundStation II has is the dedicated scrub wheel which gives the operator a really firm grip on the sound. A mouse never feels quite so good.
A hardware interface with buttons in appropriate places can be easy and quick to operate. Working with a computer is slower if you have to move the cursor up and down the screen and pop in and out of menus and dialogue boxes. All modern software offers keyboard equivalents for menu commands, which are a lot faster. The problem is that the keyboard is unhelpfully labelled with symbols like (Apple Logo)-G instead of Grab Time and if you use more than one software package then it is possible to get confused by the different meanings of many of the keyboard shortcuts. Perhaps keyboard substitutes like the ADX Dedicated System Controller will become the norm and the computer keyboard can be left to its proper function of typing in sound file and segment names.
ADX Dedicated System Controller
Not content with a computer keyboard and mouse interface, Doremi Laboratories have commissioned a hardware controller which should offer better speed of operation. The ADX controller has eight sets of Record Enable, Monitor Input, Solo and Mute buttons which can control a DAWN system with up to thirty-two tracks. Other real-life buttons include transport controls, cue points, looping, nudge and crossfade. There are programmable soft keys too and - wonderfully - a scrub wheel!
Is it a Winner?
It doesnt have to be said (does it?) that technology as new as hard disk recording and editing is potentially full of problems. Its definitely not the kind the thing you buy mail order, and you need to check any system out very thoroughly to see if it will perform the way you want. I do recommend that, however you are manipulating your audio at present, you check out the price of a DAWN II system. If you have previously inquired of other manufacturers and decided that multitrack disk recording and editing was out of your reach then you might be in a position to think again.